A Tale for the Time Being

Ruth Ozeki

fiction magical realism
challenging reflective sad slow-paced

422 pages | first published 2013

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. 

Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

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reflective 81%
emotional 72%
challenging 52%
sad 52%
dark 41%
hopeful 36%
mysterious 35%
inspiring 28%
funny 26%
adventurous 18%
informative 17%
tense 11%
lighthearted 3%
relaxing 2%


medium 56%
slow 39%
fast 4%

Strong character development?

Yes: 90% | It's complicated: 8% | No: 1%

Loveable characters?

Yes: 61% | It's complicated: 38%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 77% | No: 11% | It's complicated: 6% | N/A: 5%

Flaws of characters centre-stage?

Yes: 89% | It's complicated: 8% | No: 1%

Average rating